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Tuesday, December 3 2013 4:00 PM EST2013-12-03 21:00:46 GMT
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(RNN) – At 2 p.m. (ET) Friday, I will be the least productive person in my office.
My Virginia Cavaliers will hopefully stomp all over NC State and, thankfully, the tournament will be on a network our cable provides at the office.
That's not always the case.
Here in Alabama, it's not always easy to get any sports outside of SEC football, and basketball season ranks slightly lower than replays of SEC football games – from any season.
On Sunday when Virginia played Maryland, I scrambled to find the game on at a sports bar – then posted my frustration on both Twitter and Facebook when I couldn't do it.
Instantly, responses came from friends and strangers alike who told me not to worry about it, the ‘Hoos were getting crushed. So I cleaned my house instead of wasting money on gas and delicious bar food.
But then my smartphone started buzzing with alerts from Facebook and Twitter - friends urging me to turn on the game because Virginia was making a comeback.
I knew I couldn't get to a business that was showing the game before it was over, so I used my abilities as a 21st century techno-phile. I booted up the computer to check ESPN's gamecast, which provides live stats, and started texting friends living states away.
Without technology and social media, I wouldn't have been able to keep track of Virginia's victory over Duke – then the losses to Boston College and Florida State, followed by a comeback, overtime win against Maryland.
Social media and smartphone apps have made it easier to be a fan from far away without devoting all my free time to tracking down results and stats.
On Friday, I'll be in the middle of a meeting with a company VP when Virginia starts playing. I hope she doesn't realize I'm checking my phone for reasons other than work.
Tournament seeds are in parentheses. All times are Eastern.
Boston College Eagles (8) vs. Miami Hurricanes (1), noon Friday
The Eagles allowed Georgia Tech to open Thursday's first-round game with a 15-0 lead before the ACC's rookie of the year, Olivier Hanlan, took over. He finished with 41 points (14 of 18 field goals, 8 of 10 3-pointers), the most ever scored by a freshman in an ACC tournament.
The 84-64 final moved BC's win streak to four games. While the team's budding superstar provides offense from the perimeter, sophomore Eddie Odio has come on late to provide a defensive presence in the post. His improved play gives the team more balance and frees fellow big man Ryan Anderson to focus on scoring.
The Hurricanes down the stretch did not look like the same team that beat Duke and UNC by more than 25 points earlier in the year. But after some lackluster performances, they played like a top-echelon defense in the season finale against Clemson.
The win gave the program its first ACC men's basketball title.
With quickness in the backcourt and size in the frontcourt, Miami has the pieces in place to sweep the conference titles this season. If All-ACC first-teamer Shane Larkin and defensive player of the year Durand Scott can create turnovers (combined 3.6 steals per game) without losing the ball too much themselves, the team should have a big advantage in fast-break points against anyone.
NC State Wolfpack (5) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (4), 2 p.m. Friday
Richard Howell showed why he deserved a spot on the All-ACC first team in the Wolfpack's 80-63 win over Virginia Tech in the first round Thursday. The senior recorded 22 points on 11 of 13 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
All five of the NC State starters scored nine or more points, and they will need that balance again Friday against a quality team. Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie will need to take extra care with the ball as Virginia focuses on creating turnovers to score easy transition buckets.
The Cavaliers' defense can be suffocating to the opposition, preventing teams from finding any room for open shots once the ball gets inside the 3-point arc. When Virginia has the ball, 6'6" junior Joe Harris can score off the dribble or with his jump shot (44.4 3-point percentage).
The team went 1-2 in its last three games, and a loss could mean it won't be going to the NCAA tourney. To win, it will need Akil Mitchell to actively rebound and score points to take pressure off Harris.
Maryland Terrapins (7) vs. Duke Blue Devils (2), 7 p.m. Friday
The Terps only turned the ball over twice in the second half Thursday, and they came from five down at the half to beat Wake Forest 75-62 in the first-round contest. Sophomore guard Dez Wells continued his run of good games, accounting for 21 points and four rebounds.
Center Alex Len had one of his best games in Maryland's upset of Duke on Feb. 16. He has been inconsistent during the season but can be a dominant inside presence when he's motivated.
The Blue Devils may already have secured a No. 1 seed in next week's national tournament field, after finishing the season with wins against Miami and a dominant performance over UNC. Junior Tyler Thornton has stepped up his play on the defensive end, and can give the other team's top perimeter guy fits as he tries to find open shots.
Duke finished the year with the fourth-best 3-point shooting percentage in the nation (41.6). Seth Curry (44 percent) and Ryan Kelly (53 percent) are the team's top sharpshooters, although Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are dangerous beyond the arc, too.
Florida State Seminoles (6) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (3), 9 p.m. Friday
Florida State, the reigning ACC tournament champs, built a 14-point lead in the second half Thursday then hung on as Clemson made a run, winning 73-69. Okaro White's production has been erratic from game to game, but he had a strong performance in the first round (24 points, four rebounds).
Senior Michael Snaer had a below average 10 points but sank four late free throws to preserve the lead. He has been a nightmare for opposing squads in close games, coming up with six game-winning shots in his career, including four this season.
UNC's momentum skidded to a halt in its last game. Duke quickly took the lead over the Tar Heels and got them badly out of rhythm as it cruised to a big win in Chapel Hill.
However, when the Heels have their up-tempo offense going, few teams can keep up. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston emerged as reliable scoring options this season, and the team will need them to step up as forward James Michael McAdoo plays hurt with a bulging disc.
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